The ever-evolving office design world has long debated the advantages and disadvantages of open concept versus private office spaces. Open concept has been shown to increase collaboration and encourages interaction, while private workstations can foster improved concentration, focus, and efficiency.
In the last decade or so, the open concept office space has been popularized by innovative tech companies that rely on creativity and collaboration, like Google and Facebook, for example. At the same time, negative effects of vast open concept offices cite reduced productivity and stressed employees who crave some form of privacy throughout the day.
Luckily, an optimal alternative to the opposing camps is changing the ways design-build firms are exploring the mantras of space planning, and interior design. Cue Activity-based Working (ABW).
What is ABW?
Activity Based Working (ABW) is a team-oriented approach to office design and utilization based on the overarching idea that no one employee owns or may lay claim to an assigned workstation. ABW opts to open up the broader office space, providing employees with a myriad of activity-based locations where they can engage in specific tasks like learning, brainstorming, focusing, socializing, and collaborating with their colleagues.
ABW spaces differ from traditional open concept spaces by offering a combination of open concept office design spaces with more specifically designed areas that are task-driven in scope. The non-ownership methodology of seating arrangements helps the ABW mantra operate as an agile and flexible working environment that thrives on change and innovation.
ABW enables one individual to make a private client phone call to discuss specific deliverables, while a larger group can brainstorm and collaborate on an upcoming project, or client on-boarding strategy in an environment that encourages comfort, communication, and creativity. The success of ABW spaces are maximized further by implementing mobile furniture and modular room designs to develop working ecosystems that are interchangeable, and re-imaginable.
Why are Companies Choosing to Adopt ABW?
Many organizations are embracing the concept of ABW working arrangements for the vast benefits of combining open concept office designs with task-specific spaces. Companies that adopt an ABW set up routinely cite increased collaboration between sales and marketing teams, and faster, more effective creative ideas when workers are able to bounce ideas off one another hassle-free.
ABW methodologies are also cost-effective in that they require less capital costs to build out. Serraview notes that ABW work spaces can cost a company up to 20% less than a traditional office setting that relies on additional interior construction.
Finally, companies are choosing to embrace ABW for ease associated with impromptu layout changes to the interior design of the existing office. Groups can manufacture their own spaces daily, and reassess the effectiveness of a certain layout for the specifics of new tasks and projects on other day. Not only does this open the field for boosted productivity, but also for reduced office furniture spending.
What Role Does Interior Design and Space Planning Play in ABW?
The concept of space planning uses interior design principles to arrange office layout plans for staff to work together in departmental or collaborative groups, striving to provide optimal workflow and the capability to frequently change space plans for improved and reimagined layouts depending on the task at hand.
In this sense, ABW and space planning are closely linked in that they both seek to optimize layout fluidity and changes to address issues and potential for workplace efficiency.
Space planning comes into its own when designing an ABW platform for offices when organizations consider that space can come at a premium – proving difficult to accommodate a large collaborative group for task-specific work; space planning implements a process to address complex issues of making space for employees.
How Is ABW Executed Effectively?
In order for ABW working arrangements to be effective and successful, the pros and cons – or loses and gains – of the methodology should always be laid out for staff; with a direct focus paid to a newfound sense of team ownership. It must be communicated effectively that workspace ownership is lost, and team ownership of the entire office space is gained in its place. This principle helps to effectively transition employees from a me mindset, to a we mindset, encouraging collaboration and activity-based use of space.
Effective ABW workplace policies should always be flexible enough for innovative teams of employees to easily and fluidly adapt their preferred zones to their specific daily needs.
Leaders must also help employees embrace the change by making sure staff feels empowered and engaged in their work – from both a professional and personal standpoint. Leaders should routinely promote and encourage employee connection-building to each other, and to the physical space. All great ABW leaders recognize that people have profound connections and relationships to physical spaces, and emotional reactions to changes in the workplace are inevitable.
Lastly, trust, communication, and recognition of work outputs, rather than work processes is required to effectively execute a new ABW-focused workspace.
Activity-based working offers an ideal combination of both open concept, and private offices to address multiple workspace pain points. The methodology gives power to the employees to create the optimal working environment for specific tasks, and eliminating the struggle to maximize efficiency and productivity. ABW not only reduces the costs associated with traditional office structures, but also boost creativity, and improves workflow.